The Bankruptcy of Ideological Purity

I don’t know when I became self aware of my own philosophical nuance. Like a majority of people I have been all over the spectrum ideologically, religiously, spiritually and politically. I’ve been a Democrat and Republican, Orthodox and not, Betari and peacenik. I’ve been a hawk and a dove, a liberal and a conservative. Notwithstanding my dogmatic schizophrenia there are principles I stand for no matter what side of the scale my outlook happens to be on at that moment.

I will always be a patriotic American, proud Jew, avowed Zionist and believer in liberal democratic freedoms. To some, those self-professed labels are subject to challenge because defining those terms requires ideological purity, which admittedly I lack. As the digital age disseminates information on an affinity basis I find myself under intellectual siege. What in today’s age is a legitimate news source anyway? Every crank (including this author) with a computer and an Internet connection is a news source.

Gridlock is not unique to Washington or the Knesset it is ubiquitous on our Facebook pages, our tweets and our blogs. In the information age you are either for something or against it, nuance is ridiculed, one is either doctrinaire or a hypocrite. The vitriol is not reserved for just political discourse; even victims are subject to ridicule. Kayla Mueller, the American ISIS hostage killed in an air raid recently, was called “a Jew hating, anti Israel bitch” by a right wing Jewish blogger. Deceased CBS reporter Bob Simon was “an anti Israel, self-hating Jew.” Peter Beinart, according to one of my Facebook friends, is also a self-hating Jew because he dared to challenge Elie Weisel on the Bibi – joint session speech fiasco. And yes it is a fiasco, he may have every right to address congress but we can all admit it will come with a price.

Of course we also have to deal with the religious absolutists who monopolize the news and I am not referring to Islamist extremists. Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Shlomo Cohen this week called the Israeli national anthem, Hatikvah, stupid. Rabbi Meir Mazuz, Eli Yishai’s spiritual leader seems to have a direct line to God as he is able to explain why the Holocaust “passed over Sephardim.” While few of these religious zealots express violent tendencies I would not predict the same restraint should they ever obtain political power. In Australia, rabbinic infallibility was blown to bits as a commission of inquiry exposed years of child abuse and cover up in the Chabad Yeshivah. That movie has played itself out in the USA and Israel for years already.

Prime Minister Netanyahu calls upon European Jews to leave their homes and the prevalent anti-Semitism on that continent and move to the protective shield of the Jewish homeland. Some have heeded his call but can you blame those that don’t? They will have to confront a Chief Rabbinate that will skeptically challenge their Judaism. Sephardic chief rabbi Yosef announced this week that he wouldn’t sign off on conversions performed by local rabbis as now prescribed by new government policy. This prompted an Orthodox member of the Knesset to remind the good rabbi who it is that pays his salary and called upon him to resign.

Recently, I conducted a siyum, a religious ceremony one performs upon completing a tractate of Talmud. I was proud of this accomplishment but mortified by the prayer I had to read afterwards as prescribed by custom:

“We arise early and they arise early; we arise early for the words of Torah, while they arise early for idle words. We toil and they toil; we toil and receive reward, while they toil and do not receive reward. We run and they run; we run to the life of the world to come, while they run to the well of destruction.”

I think it’s safe to say that the definition of we and they has changed and that some of our elitist texts, narratives, ideologies and laws are subject to some change and review. I believe we have earned the right to be nuanced and to not have to agree on everything. Mostly I believe that there is no such thing as ideological purity and there is no such thing as human infallibility, don’t believe me? read the Bible. We are an imperfect species in an imperfect world; our struggle is to improve what we have and who we are. I don’t expect many of you to agree with everything I say but I would give my life for your right to disagree. On that I remain pure.

About the Author
Joel Moskowitz is a businessman and writer who finally made it to Jerusalem. He is currently chronicling this move in an Aliyah Journal posted on this site.